There was already talk of falling last time defense loan A theory that proposes the existence of a lack of stimulation of the immune system during the COVID-19 pandemic due to reduced circulation of the virus and the protection provided by measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection (social distancing, masks). , greater hand hygiene, etc.), which would result in a higher number of people susceptible to becoming infected with the virus against which they could not have been immunized, somewhat more likely in the case of young children.
in the end weather of Suffering Fewer cases were detected than usual, but we faced a new wave of coronavirus infections that has decimated primary care health centers and skyrocketed demand for tests that detect SARS-CoV-2, as all those who had symptoms of COVID or had possible contact with an infected wanted to ensure that the infection did not spread to their loved ones during Christmas celebrations.
But, did the flu virus displace SARS-CoV-2 and its variants last winter, or were there coincidences that went unnoticed? You what will happen with the flu this year Will we be more vulnerable to infection, or will there be more severe symptoms due to potential immune debt? What about babies and toddlers? Will they be more? prone to contracting respiratory viruses, or will their immune response against them be poor? We spoke to two experts to clarify it for us.
Defense debt, what is true in this theory?
But, what do experts think about this hypothesis that has been on the table for months? “I don’t share this theory of immune debt, the Spanish’s immune system has been stimulated for years with respiratory viruses, so there’s a strong herd immunity in front of them. It is not necessary to deal with it every year to maintain it. We will be more or less re-infected depending on whether the variants touching us this year are more or less viral ”tells Webconsults Dr. Carmen CamarasMedical specialist of the Immunology Service of the Hospital Universitario La Paz, Madrid and spokesperson for the Spanish Society of Immunology (SEI).
And he says that “we haven’t seen more cases of flu in these months, on the other hand, there have been cases of children with VRS (respiratory syncytial virus) outside winter seasonBut in this case they are young children, so they never had contact with the said virus before (there was no herd immunity for them)”.
“Vaccination campaigns should be as close as possible to the peak of virus circulation to achieve maximum effectiveness”
Those born during the pandemic have been more isolated and subjected to greater hygiene measures, but Doctor. Pedro GorotexteguiThe vice president of the Spanish Association of Primary Care Pediatrics (AEPAP) believes that this does not affect their immune response. “There is a neat theory that says that when a human, in this case a child, is not exposed to an infection, it is not that he or she lacks exposure to other infections, but that he or she is at greater risk of developing allergies. Maybe asthma… hygiene principle Indicates that when we do not use our entire immune system to defend against infection, a part of it acts against us and are more likely to develop asthma, eczema, rheumatic-type diseases.. ., but the fact is that because you don’t face the infection don’t go to your rescue in the aftermath Regarding another disease, I don’t see much scientific basis for it.”
Regarding doubts about whether the flu virus was displaced by SARS-CoV-2, or if co-infection with the flu virus was not detected, immunologists consider the “first option More likely, that movement will occur within the ecological niche of respiratory viruses”. “Furthermore, he added- we must not forget an additional fundamental factor which means use of masks This year “greater social contact will likely lead to a higher number of respiratory virus infections, among them flu cases,” he says.
How flu season will affect children
Dr. Gorotxtegui tells us that young children (under the age of two) are usually more affected by bronchiolitis than the flu. “Last year practically no children had bronchiolitis, an infection that affects almost all children and other conditions now would have had a large proportion of people between the ages of 0 and two. Children vulnerable to bronchiolitis That group of people doesn’t have the option of having it this year,” he says.
Experts say that for this reason they consider it possible that “Aggravation of bronchiolitis”“, which is “a condition that causes respiratory distress and must be closely monitored because there is no effective treatment and some children have low blood oxygen and you need to be aware of how they develop.” Huh”.
In the case of children, he does not believe that “the flu is going to be a bigger problem than it was last year, because it depends a lot on the virus; some are more serious, and others are less, and the fact remains that That measures were instituted to control respiratory diseases last year does not mean that this year the flu will be worse, but it may have an effect, for example, in the case of bronchiolitis.
Should we push for flu vaccination or vaccinate children?
The Vice President of AEAPAP does not consider it necessary to advance the vaccination campaign, nor to vaccinate non-susceptible populations. “There are risk groups that need to be vaccinated against the flu, and then a general vaccination recommended by the Spanish Association of Pediatrics for all babies over six months old. But all pediatricians and the health system as a whole need to One must keep in mind that children at risk should be vaccinated because, for example, we are seeing that in vaccines such as measles, coverage has fallen to 80%, when it exceeds 95%, and that we Do not give vaccines recommended by the National Health System, this is serious. For this reason, the most important thing is to vaccinate against the flu in all children who have risk factors, although the vaccine is optionally given to any child from the age of six months. can be given.
Dr. Carmen Camara, for his part, believes: “We should not conduct vaccination campaigns, given that the effect of falling antibody titers is a clearly demonstrated fact in this pandemic. To achieve maximum effectiveness Vaccination campaigns for influenza should be as close as possible to the peak of virus circulation. Starting a vaccination campaign for influenza in September is not justified for scientific reasons, but for the inevitable optimization of the personnel resources needed to accomplish this.
Kamara, on the other hand, pointed out that “it will not expand the vaccination campaign to the entire population, but will double the efforts. cover the weak Don’t forget your relatives. So far we have not managed to achieve high vaccination coverage in these groups, 50% in the best cases”.
Tips to avoid respiratory infections in children this season
Caution is advised to avoid this or any other respiratory infection, with or without the flu vaccine, as vaccination does not protect against all flu viruses and may not be effective against those that spread during this season. . The main recommendations of the experts consulted to prevent respiratory infections are:
- stay at home, If a child has a fever, he or she should stay home, says Dr. Gorotxtegui; This is something we can learn from the pandemic: When a temperature was taken and if a child had a fever, they were not allowed to enter nursery or school.
- wear a mask, “To prevent respiratory infections, I favor the use of masks when children have colds.” “If the child does not have a fever and is in good general condition, but has a cold, it will be convenient for him to wear a mask so that he does not infect others,” continues the pediatrician. In the opinion of the spokesperson of the Spanish Society of Immunology, the recommendation to wear masks when we have some kind of respiratory infection should be extended to the whole population: “It seems to me that the fundamental measure we should learn in this pandemic is We have learned to wear a mask when there are cold symptoms and we are with other people at work, leisure, transport … to avoid infecting them,” he concluded.